What is the new three tier system and what are the lockdown rules in each area?

The new system was brought in to avoid any more confusion about the lockdown rules
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  • As London takes on their first local restrictions since the start of the pandemic, many people are now wondering what the new 3 tier system is and what the lockdown rules are in each area.

    The new three tier system was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday October 12, as he explained that further measures of lockdown would be focused on local lockdown restrictions and around the new NHS COVID-19 test and trace app.

    ‘Very high risk’ areas are tier three and have the most severe restrictions, while ‘high risk’ is otherwise known as tier two and ‘medium’ is tier one, where there are the least restrictions but national guidelines are still in place. This week, areas such as Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, London and Lancashire have all been told that their level of threat has increased and therefore, they will be entering a higher level of lockdown restrictions. 

    Speaking to the House of Commons about the new system on October 15, Heath Secretary Matt Hancock said, “Let us be under no illusions about the dangers of the virus. Coronavirus is deadly and it’s now spreading exponentially in the UK. We must act to prevent more hospitalisations, more deaths and more economic damage because we know from recent history that when this virus keeps growing, unless we act together to get it under control this is the result.” 

    He added that this included, “Bearing down on local restrictions where necessary” and taking “firm and balanced decisions to keep the virus under control. Delayed actions mean more deaths from COVID, it means more non-Covid deaths and more economic pain later. We should stop it going up in the first place and unless we suppress the virus, we cannot return to the economy we’ve had. Unless we suppress the virus, we can’t keep non-Covid NHS services going and unless we suppress the virus, we cannot keep the elderly and vulnerable safe and secure.” 

    The health secretary’s announcement comes as the UK faces a second wave of coronavirus, as seen elsewhere in Europe such as Spain and France. Since additional restrictions have been enforced abroad, there has been much speculation about whether the UK is heading for another national lockdown and what the upcoming restrictions will be on socialising, businesses and finances.

    So what is the new tier system that came into play this week? And how will it affect you? 

    What is the new 3 tier system for lockdown?

    Credit: Getty

    Much like the traffic light-style system initially proposed at the beginning of lockdown, the new three-tier system divides England up into different zones based on the infection rates. The higher the infection rate, the more severe the restrictions – subsequently each area of the country is given a rating of either ‘Medium’, ‘High’ or ‘Very High’ for their level of risk. 

    In ‘medium’ risk, also called ‘tier one’, the main rules are: 

    • Follow the rule of six if meeting indoors or outdoors
    • Pubs and restaurants must close at 10pm

    In ‘high’ risk areas, also called ‘tier two’ zones, the main rules are: 

    • No household mixing indoors
    • Rule of six will apply outdoors
    • Pubs and restaurants will shut at 10pm

    ‘Very high risk’ is the highest level of restrictions, also called ‘tier three’, the main rules are: 

    • No household mixing indoors or outdoors in hospitality venues or private gardens
    • Rule of six applies in outdoor and outdoor public spaces like parks
    • Pubs and bars not serving meals will be closed
    • There is guidance against travelling into or out of the area

    The new system works alongside the NHS COVID-19 test and trace app, which was launched by the government recently to track the rising spread of cases. The app tells the user which level of restrictions they are under, whether they have come into contact with someone who has the virus and whether they need to self-isolate. 

    Currently Liverpool is the only area in England that’s facing the harshest, red ‘Very High Risk’ lockdown measures but it’s expected that other major hubs, such as London and Manchester could see their severity level heightened in the coming weeks – or even days. 

    What’s the difference between tier 3 and a circuit breaker lockdown?

    Among the plans for the tier 3 system, an idea of a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown was proposed. This involves the entire country going into a total lockdown for two weeks, probably over half term, to break the chain of transmission.

    It’s different to the tiered measures as it will involve the whole country, rather than individual areas and it’s likely that restrictions similar to those experienced in March will be reinforced. Pubs, restaurants and all leisure facilities including gyms would close, household/support bubble mixing would be prohibited and everyone would be advised not to use public transport unless it’s essential. 

    New research out this week, reported by the BBC, has suggested that taking on a two-week lockdown ‘may halve deaths’. The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) suggests that the circuit breaker could ‘rewind the clock’ by one month and save lives. But members of SAGE have already said that the government might be too late in enforcing the restrictions, as it’s a preventative method rather than a solution.

    Major figures including SAGE and Labour Leader Keir Starmer have supported the idea of a circuit breaker lockdown and suggested that it’s the best way to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. 

    What are the third tier lockdown rules?

    Credit: Getty

    If an area is placed in the third tier of lockdown, the risk level is deemed ‘very high’ and the harshest restrictions are put in place. 

    These are the rules under the third tier: 

    • No household mixing indoors or outdoors in hospitality venues or in private outdoor spaces.
    • The rule of six also applies to outdoor spaces like parks. 
    •  Pubs and bars that do not serve meals will be forced to close. 
    • Gyms and all leisure facilities will be forced to close. 
    •  There is guidance against travelling out of the area. 

    Along with Liverpool, Manchester and Lancashire could be put under Tier 3 lockdown after the government’s task force signed off on the tougher measures. However, the move to take Manchester into the harshest restrictions has been criticised by many businesses and the city’s mayor, Andy Burnham, who said that he and other local leaders ‘fear a winter where large parts of the North are trapped in Tier 3’ without the financial help they need. 

    The ‘very high risk’ category is significantly more severe than ‘high risk’, otherwise known as tier two. 

    Where are the tier 3 lockdown areas in the UK?

    As of Monday October 19, only Liverpool and Lancashire are in tier 3 of lockdown. However, there are eight other areas that could be moved up into the ‘very high’ risk level if coronavirus cases continue to rise.

    These include:

    • Newcastle Upon Tyne
    • Hartlepool
    • Leeds
    • Manchester
    • Bury
    • Salford
    • Sheffield
    • Nottingham

    At the moment, these are still in tier 2 lockdown. Greater Manchester is now under pressure to agree to the higher level of restrictions, however, as the prime minister offered the area £100 million but Mayor Andy Burnham has refused, saying, it “wasn’t about the size of the cheque”. Instead, he is calling for a circuit breaker lockdown to be implemented across the country to try and reduce the spread.

    What does tier 2 lockdown mean?

    London street, one of the cities that could go into a tier three lockdown

    Credit: Getty

    The government’s second highest tier is tier two, ‘high risk’. Under this level, the rules include changes to how businesses operate from the national guidelines and restrictions on household mixing. 

    In tier two, these are the rules: 

    • All businesses and venues can stay open in a secure way, other than those still closed by law such as nightclubs. 
    • Pubs and restaurants are still required to close by 10pm but delivery services, click-and-collect and drive-thru can stay open. 
    • Schools, universities and places of worships stay open. 
    • The ‘rule of six’ remains in place outdoors and in private gardens. 
    • People must not meet with anyone outside of their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place. 
    • People should reduce the number of journeys they make where possible or plan ahead to avoid busy times. 

    It has been announced that London will move into the tier two category from Saturday October 17. The capital joins Nottingham, Burnley, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Manchester and Sheffield in the new restrictions. Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi said that the government was implementing the new rules across the country with a ‘heavy heart’ and told Sky News, “This is really difficult, it’s a balance between effectively two harms…the harm the virus is doing and obviously the harm to the economy and also to the health of having the national lockdown.  

    Do gyms close in tier 2 lockdown?

    Although gyms are set to close in the higher levels, it’s not thought that gyms and leisure facilities will close under tier 2 lockdown. Although you will not be able to meet with someone outside of your household in these venues, they will be staying open for the time being.

    If an area moves into tier 3, then gyms are likely to close as no organised non-professional sports or activities will be allowed to take place. In response to this both independent and chains of gyms across the country have been urging the government to rethink how they see gyms in terms of the virus spreading. UK Active is just one of the companies who are fighting back against the closures, by arguing that gyms and sports centres are an essential service much like a school or place of worship.

    As the BBC reports, one gym owner in Wirral said, “We are not staying open for financial gain but more for our members’ mental and physical well-being.” 

    Chris Ellerby-Hemmings, who co-owns EmpoweredFit gym in Wirral, has also said that his gym is Covid-secure and wants to be shown evidence about the spread of the virus in the setting, as there have not been any cases of Covid in the gyms that have remained open either before or after the previous lockdown. However for the moment, gyms and other public indoor spaces (aside from pubs and restaurants that serve food) in the Liverpool region are required to close down under the new restrictions.

    Are Lancashire areas in tier 3 lockdown?

    After an agreement was made with local ministers, the area of Lancashire will now be heading into tier 3 lockdown. This means that large towns such as Blackpool, Blackburn and Fleetwood will be joining Liverpool City Region in the ‘very high’ risk level of lockdown.

    The announcement came as discussions were held between Westminster and the local leaders about financial support for the region on Thursday, as speculation grew around whether the area would be locked down. LancsLive has now revealed that the county secured a £42million package of financial support for businesses, the care sector and schools on the agreement that they would enter a tier 3 lockdown. However, one difference between the Lancashire measures and those that have been seen elsewhere, is that gyms and leisure centres will stay open but any hospitality venue unable to serve food will be forced to close.

    Liverpool tier 3 lockdown: What is happening in the city?

    On Wednesday October 14, Liverpool went into the highest tier of lockdown restrictions which has meant that there can be no household mixing indoors or outdoors in hospitality venues or in private outdoor spaces, those venues not serving food will be forced to close and people have been advised not to travel in or out of the area. 

    In Liverpool, the areas that are taking on the new restrictions include: 

    • Liverpool 
    • Knowsley 
    • Wirral
    • St Helens
    • Sefton 
    • Halton 

    Gyms, leisure centres, betting shops and casinos have also been forced to close under the new rules as Boris Johnson said that he didn’t want to ‘impose these kinds of erosions of our personal liberty’ but added that the ‘British people have the resolve to beat the virus.’ 

    Is Manchester in tier 3 lockdown?

    overview of manchester city, one of the places that could go into a tier three lockdown

    Credit: Getty

    Manchester is set to move into the highest level of coronavirus restrictions, according to latest reports. It will join Liverpool in the measures and be forced to close hospitality and leisure venues, with different households banned from meeting in any setting. The announcement follows a meeting held between local MPs and ministers early on Thursday (today) morning but it has been stressed that for the moment, no final decisions have been made. 

    Is London going into level two?

    On Thursday September 14, it was announced that London would be heading into a tier 2 or level two, ‘high’ risk lockdown as the level of cases is doubling every ten days. This means that the capital will take on new restrictions from Saturday that will include the first ever local measures enforced since the beginning of the lockdown. 

    Essex is also expected to join London in the measures as households are banned from mixing in pubs and restaurants indoors, and people should aim to reduce their use of public transport. However, gyms and some other leisure facilities will be remain open for the time being. 

    London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan said that there was ‘simply no other option’ and ‘nobody wants to see more restrictions but this is deemed as necessary in order to protect Londoners.’ He added that the city had a ‘difficult winter ahead’ along with the rest of the country as he backed Labour Leader Keir Starmer’s calls for a circuit breaker lockdown over the half-term to stem the spread of the virus. 

    But experts have warned that even going into tier 2 will be a huge hit for the hospitality industries around the UK. Richard Burge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce, told BBC Radio London that the measures for the activity zone of London and the high streets is “equivalent to tier three.” He said, “It’s effectively shutting pubs and restaurants. Very few of our hospitality venues, pubs and restaurants have the space to be outside. The hotels that have opened are going to find that their visitors are going to decline…it’s effectively like shutting them down.”

    Can you still go on holiday?

    Many holidays have been booked up again since the restrictions were lifted, but the new three tier system will change plans once again as some areas are not allowed to go on holiday or leave the area. 

    In tier 2, which is deemed as ‘high risk’, travel in and out of the area is still allowed but residents have been advised to limit their journeys where possible. As the government guidelines say, “If they need to travel, they should walk or cycle where possible, or plan ahead to avoid busy times and routes on public transport.”

    Those living in tier 2 areas are allowed to go on holiday to other parts of the UK and abroad, as long as they follow rules on self-isolating when they return, and don’t share accommodation with those outside their household or support bubble. They also cannot socialise with people from other households indoors. They can also still travel within their own tier 2 area to hotels and other guest accommodation, but they should so with people from their own household or support bubble. 

    So while it’s advised to reduce travel, if you live in a tier 2 area, it’s still technically allowed to go on holiday. But what about tier 3, the highest level of restrictions? 

    In tier 3, there are the most severe rules in place that limit movement in and out of the region. Along with venues and businesses being largely closed, residents have been told that travel should be limited to essential journeys only. This means that going on holiday is not allowed, especially as the measures include avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK.

    How long will the restrictions last?

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already given an end date for the tiered system, it seems, as he said that the restrictions would be in place for the next six months. But this came with the condition that there had to be “palpable progress” in reducing the spread of the virus within this time, otherwise it would go on for longer.

    Previously the prime minister has been reluctant to say that the UK could face another lockdown, explaining that the impact to the economy would be ‘disastrous’ but recently, he’s backtracked on the idea and said that he would do whatever was necessary to stem the spread. The new restrictions come into play as over 90,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 on the lead up to October 9, leading to fast action being taken around the country.